I used to be skeptical about discernment.
To me, “discernment” was about audibly hearing God’s voice. I’d imagine the Holy Spirit whispering into someone’s ear and saying stuff like, “Hey go speak to this person!” or “Hey write this down!“. And the person will be like, “Oh yeah, that’s good! Keep telling me what to do next, God!”
Or sometimes, I’d think discernment would be about praying hard about a decision: Should I marry this person? Should I take this job? And then suddenly the heavens will open and there’d be a flash of clarity with the right choice illuminated like a jackpot machine.
Unfortunately, I’d never experienced either of those situations. So I was skeptical: Maybe discernment was only for the chosen few – those imbued with the gift of listening to God.
And so I’d continue making decisions like how the rest of the world does: Based on my own logic and common sense. I’d take the job because it offers me more money. I’d be friends with this person because I liked his personality. Sometimes, I’d make a decision, feel unsure about it, then turn to God and ask, “Lord, please show me whether this decision is right… I THINK it’s right? It makes sense, right?”
So when we had Part 1 of our session on discernment yesterday, it blew my mind that I’d been thinking about discernment all wrong. I was so grateful to learn what discernment was TRULY all about from those who were a lot more experienced than I am.
We covered so many great points during the sesh (that’s how the cool kids say “session” these days) on how to better discern God’s will for us, but here are just 3 of them:
Purify Your Heart & Intentions
Sometimes, it seems like I’m doing God’s work. I’m getting up on stage and speaking about theology, right? I spent my week preparing for this talk! I’m awesome! I’ve totally discerned that God wants me to do this!
But waitaminute – am I doing this because it’s really what God wants me to do, or because it strokes my ego? Does it glorify God, or glorify me?
Before we even start discerning, we as Christians need to look deep into our true motivations behind a decision. If our motivation is something contrary to what is Christ-like, it’s gonna cloud our discernment. Our human motivations are gonna take over. And like the hymn goes, “And God’s soft promptings can be easily ignored.”
Be Humble And Seek The Counsel of Mature Catholics
This one really surprised me when I heard it. Discernment isn’t some woo-woo metaphysical process between me and God – it involves other people as well!
But when I thought about it, it actually makes sense. After all, as Catholics we know that we can’t have a solitary prayer life – we need community as well. So why should discernment be any different?
Several years ago, one of our brothers was discerning whether he should go for a mission trip. He was torn between the practicalities of being a responsible Asian husband, and the call of spreading God’s word.
So he prayed, and he read the Bible, and he prayed some more. But he didn’t just stop there – he asked everyone around him for advice! First, he asked those around him who were mature in their faith: His spiritual director, his spouse, his friends who lived Christ-like lives.
But he didn’t stop there – he also asked his non-Christian colleagues, his friends and relatives. Everyone gave their perspectives: Some from a spiritual approach, some gave practical advice, some using moral logic.
By listening to a multitude of opinions and perspectives, and combined with the power of prayer, he was able to make a more informed decision on whether he should stay or go. (He went. And it bore fruit for years to come!)
Discernment isn’t just about prayer and “feeling”. It’s also about fact-finding, information-gathering, and logic. God speaks to us not just in prayer, but through those around us as well.
Understand God’s Character
Jason, who gave his testimony yesterday, gave this one analogy that I really like:
It’s like a husband who knows exactly what his wife likes and doesn’t like. When a waiter asks them for their drink order, the husband already knows that he shouldn’t order Coke, because his wife likes Sprite with lemon.
Sometimes, discernment isn’t about hearing God’s voice in an audible manner. Instead, it’s about acting in accordance with what you already know about God’s character.
A husband can only know – truly know – his wife by spending time with her. In the same way, we can only know God by being familiar with Him. Reading the Scriptures and listening to the messages within. Spending time in Adoration. Reflecting on how much He loves us by sending His only Son to die for us.
And above all, falling in love with Jesus.
When we go deeper than just a superficial knowledge of rules and rituals, when we actually fall in love with Jesus and truly know Him – That’s when we can start to discern His will for us. We can say, “Hey, I know this seems to make sense from a worldly perspective, but based on what I know about God, I don’t think this is something He’d like me to do.”
Many of us still have a long way to go before we get there (I know I do!). Many of us need to learn how to love Jesus over and over again.
But what’s important is that we keep our hearts open, continue to pray, and persevere. Have a great week ahead 🙂